• Revised Robotics, Parts, and Production Chain: In 2008, Subaru changed from solvent-based paint to a "greener" water-based mixture. Paint sprayers evenly coat bodies with a new bell device running at 50,000 rpm in order to atomize the color. This creates less overspray and reduces paint per car to only one gallon.
Body and chassis welds are checked by ultrasound rather than by an older pick and hammer method. The same quick, less wasteful process is used by numerous automakers. Low-energy fluorescent bulbs light up the massive building's spotless concrete floors. Once the bulbs run their course, the glass is sold to a company that reuses it. Same goes for the copper used throughout the parts range, the encrusted buildup left behind on robot arms by the paint booth's electrodeposition bath, and the leftover plywood from transport palettes.
Workers get to and from stations on industrial pedal trikes, which are more efficient than walking. To piece together a car, assemblers and robots pull parts from "minomi" racks developed by Toyota. They're sort of jumbo-sized vending machines stocked with car parts. When one part is pulled out, another replaces it.
• Green Inside and Out: SIA's buildings -- which include the main plant, recreation center, training and reception center, child development center, and technical training building -- are situated next to 30 acres of low-maintenance prairie, five sizable retention ponds (some filled with bluegill and other freshwater fish), and scores of trees and shrubbery.
A team of employees is tasked with reintroducing native species and removing invasive ones. Deer, eagles, coyotes, ducks, and swans are a part of the vast ecosystem adjacent to the plant. Official bean counters have tallied 28 deer and three bucks roaming the secured land. SIA works closely with wildlife organizations like the WWF to make sure everything is done humanely and properly.
Every 20 minutes a random completed vehicle is taken to the 2-mile test track and dynamics lot to see if production is up to snuff, and there are signs along the bush-lined high-speed track warning drivers to look out for fauna.
Employees, their families, and Lafayette locals can utilize 5 kilometers' worth of unpaved trails set in the most scenic areas. There is a massive compost onsite for waste food and decomposable items.
And the growing "green" list goes on and on...
Like Fuji Heavy Industries, SIA also focuses on its surrounding communities. The plant sets aside time and money for various local non-profit organizations. It opens its facilities to the community for holiday events and charity walks, and donates money to local causes.
No doubt the zero-landfill SIA complex has many in the automotive industry filled with admiration, and a few automakers feeling green with envy.